The Chamber of Commerce of the United States threw its support yesterday to administration efforts to form a Department of International Trade and Industry from the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative's office.
But the chamber's board of directors attached nine objectives, which it said were central to any reorganization, and indicated support could be withdrawn if the administration strayed from them.
The most important of those objectives were guaranteeing high visibility in the White House for the new trade secretary and assuring that the new department would not become an organ of trade protectionism.
In giving its support to trade reorganization, the chamber board overruled two of its committees that recommended opposition.
Chamber board members were heavily lobbied before voting, with Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige seeking support for the new department, and Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.), a member of the trade subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, arguing against the plan.
On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) opposed the reorganization in a four-page letter to Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), whose Government Operations Committee has House jurisdiction over the legislation. The letter was also signed by Rep. Barber B. Conable Jr. (R-N.Y.), ranking minority member of Ways and Means, and four members of the trade subcommittee--Chairman Sam Gibbons (D-Fla.), Reps. Frenzel, Ed Jenkins (D-Ga.) and Kent Hance (D-Tex.).
"Our objections to trade reorganization concern the substance of the proposal, its timing and its disregard for existing statutory structure," their letter said. Moreover, the congressmen said the reorganization plan fails to consolidate all trade policy in one agency as the administration promised, but only addresses the dispute between Commerce and the U.S. Trade Representative.